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Home » News » Parliament » Tshekedi is not above the law - Guma

Tshekedi is not above the law - Guma

Publishing Date : 31 October, 2016

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA

Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises Chairman, Samson Guma, has warned Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, to abide by the law or face the consequences.

This follows Khama’s decision to snub the committee after being summoned to appear before it to explain various events which led to Botswana Tourism Organisation’s (BTO) CEO, being told to leave office before the initially agreed time.

“No one is above the law, and he is bound to obey the instruction of this committee,” Guma said.

“When the committee summons you to give evidence, everything else you had planned to do on that day should be cancelled.” 

Tshekedi has reportedly flown out of the country ahead of his scheduled appearance before the committee despite being informed by his Permanent Secretary, Elias Magosi, about his summons.

Magosi and BTO CEO, Brian Dithebe, have however appeared before the committee to further give evidence before the panel in his absence. The duo has already appeared on more than two occasions before the committee, with the BTO scandal raging on.

At the centre of events is Minister Khama, who has refused to appoint the BTO board, contrary to the BTO Act and has in the absence of the board been calling the shots at BTO making directives beyond his powers as minister.

Khama has been acting in cohorts with Acting Board Chairperson, Lawrence Khupe, who has been issuing instructions to BTO management using his acting position. The Attorney General’s office has however since clarified to the committee that, Khupe’s instructions and decisions are invalid, since he can only derive that power from an existing board. Khupe is a former partner at Collins and Newman law firm.

Dithebe was billed to leave the organisation at the end of November this year, but a letter signed by Khupe instructed him to leave office by yesterday (21 October). The committee again learnt that Khupe did not have the powers to take such a decision in the absence of a board.

The decision to expel Dithebe was arrived at by the trio of Khama, Khupe and deputy PS, Felix Monggae. Magosi was not part of the meeting, but only learnt of the decision when it had already been taken.

Khama had earlier informed the committee that he is still looking for the “right people” to appoint to the board, but Magosi revealed to the committee that subsequent to the minister’s appearance, they are in the process of issuing a CAB memo to facilitate the process of appointment of new board members.

The committee has also learnt that Khama and a committee he selected recently completed a restructuring exercise for BTO, a structure which has since been approved by Khama himself. Khama further instructed the outgoing BTO CEO to implement the structure despite it going to cost the organisation an additional P22.3 million, which was not budgeted for in the current financial year.

According to Magosi, the BTO had planned to request for a supplementary budget from parliament in the next session, but Guma has since informed Magosi that with the manner in which they are doing things, their request before parliament will not see the light of the day.

The new structure has also raised eyebrows with regards to some of its members of the committee, with the position of Legal Officer occupied by Tswelelo Kebatlile and that of Executive Manager –Marketing occupied by Julian Blackbeard. The duo is attracting salaries higher than that of a CEO and will earn P50 000 and P49 000 respectively, while the CEO earns a basic salary of P42 000. 

Another matter which has been raised before the committee by the outgoing BTO CEO is that of Sally-Anne Smith, a British national who have been working at BTO without a permit for over two years now. Smith who was brought to BTO by then chairman of the Board, Neil Fitt, had her application for work permit rejected by Immigration department, and at one point she was arrested for failing to produce a work permit.

When the panel probed further on how it was possible for the said employee to work in Botswana for a period of more than two years without a work permit, Dithebe revealed to the committee that, the said employee enjoyed the backing of Fitt, then Board Chairperson and that of minister Khama. Smith has since been using one month work permits renewed regularly at the request of the minister.  

It has also emerged that Khama wants to fill BTO with people who are closely connected or related to him. Julian Nganunu is the daughter of Botswana’s High Commissioner to London, Roy Blackbeard. Blackbeard is close to the Khamas, having paved way for Ian Khama to become MP for Serowe North West in 1998 to take up a diplomatic post.

Recently, Tshekedi has instructed BTO to appoint Changu Newman, wife to former High Court Judge and co-founder of Collins and Newman law firm, as BTO tourism attaché in the United States. Her husband, David Newman is currently in US serving as ambassador after being appointed by President Ian Khama in 2015.

Dithebe further revealed that, Changu had fell short in terms of qualification to be regarded for the post of Tourism Attaché in the US but Tshekedi has insisted that she be appointed, despite that.

Both Dithebe and the PS have stated that they have been acting under massive duress in their posts, and on a number of occasions, the Minister forces them to take illegal decisions. Magosi further stated that his days could be numbered at the ministry as he could leave anytime like Dithebe.

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